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Harvester says Northern Peninsula needs a new plant for processing cod

Englee lost its fish plant in 2012. Harvester Ron Patey says when the plant was operating, Englee fishermen had “the best comfort ever we had in our lives.”
Englee lost its fish plant in 2012. Harvester Ron Patey says when the plant was operating, Englee fishermen had “the best comfort ever we had in our lives.”

ENGLEE, NL – While harvesters in Englee have finally found buyers for their cod, some say a new plant is desperately needed on the Northern Peninsula.    

Since Englee lost its plant in 2012, fishermen have struggled to find a buyer for cod. Now, both Quinlan Brothers Ltd. in Bay de Verde and Quin-Sea Fisheries in Conche will be processing codfish for harvesters in the Englee area.

Similar trouble occurred earlier this month for St. Anthony’s cod fishermen, who now have to send their catches to Labrador for processing.
Harvester Ron Patey says these new distances to get fish processed is putting additional strain on fishermen, and what they really need is a new plant somewhere along the peninsula.

“It’s a job to do anything unless we have a plant or some processing in this area,” said Patey.

“We got our fish going to Bay de Verde, and the St. Anthony crowd are sending theirs to Labrador, so where does that leave the Northern Peninsula in the future?”

While the Quin-Sea plant in Conche will process some of their catch, Patey says the plant cannot keep up with the plentiful nets the harvesters are hoisting up.

Just Wednesday, Patey and his crew hauled a fleet of gear with around 1,500 pounds of fish. Using only two nets, Patey says it’s something he’s never seen before.

“We caught that with hardly any time at the nets,” said Patey. “I’ve never heard talk of that in my life, not in the 40 years I’ve been fishing.”
With his current quota at 4,000 pounds a week, Patey and his crew are working less hours than ever.

“Right now, when it comes to the cod, one day we’re paid and the other five we’re not getting anything out of it,” said Patey.

While his quota doubles to 8,000 a week in September, the quantity of the fish for that month may not ease his financial fears. With the high probability that the Northern Peninsula will miss out on a capelin fishery, worries of cod remaining in the area are high.

Need for investment

Fish, Foods and Allied Workers union president Keith Sullivan says the cod fishery is definitely expanding, but there is also a strong need to invest in processors and find more markets for harvesters.

“Now that were seeing more cod available, we need more investments to find our footing and develop a better ground fishery,” he said.

While the FFAW has helped direct the extension of the cod season, the need for more processing markets is becoming an increasing challenge.

According to Patey, to make it a viable trip, the tractor-trailer loads going to Bay de Verde from Englee are requesting 17,000 pounds of codfish. With roughly 20 licences in the Englee area, Patey is fearful it may become a tough target to hit.

“If the truck comes for 17,000 pounds of fish, and in September they only have 6,000 pounds to load it with - it will be a different story whether that plant will still process the catch,” he said.

Conche and Main Brook are also processing some cod from the area. Patey says by sending fish to these plants, many harvesters have to do an additional day of work just to make sure the cod is sold.

“Before the [Englee] plant closed, we had the best comfort ever we had in our lives,” he said. “Years ago, whether you had 200 or 22,000 pounds, whatever you had - you put it up over the wharf and you were finished for the day.”

Talk abounds within the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery regarding the increasing importance of cod, although, some fishermen like Patey are anxious as to how prepared the province will be for a larger cod fishery.

“If it keeps going the way it is for the next few years, the cod fishery is going to be a very viable industry,” said Patey. “But somewhere on the northeast coast, we need a fish plant and we need one bad.

“Englee can’t keep it going with just our 20 enterprises, but for the whole bulk of the Northern Peninsula surely there can be one. And we’re only asking for one.”

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